Stories in games may be good. they should be good. however this list isn’t about the whole – grand scale, interwoven plot threads or dramatic storytelling – this list just about the words that carry the story.
It’s also worth mentioning this isn’t too definite a top five and can be good of a list of games with writing that I personally liked. with that little bit of criticism nullification swiftly out of the way, let’s get on with the list!
5. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
Uncharted 2 was praised for it’s funny, charming, Whedon-esque dialogue. Unfortunately, as is the nature of the polished “summer blockbuster” style, it doesn’t provoke much thought or emotional response. It does provide enjoyable exposition and likeable characters, however.
This exchange between Nathan Drake and a female companion is mainly what earned it a place on the list:
“So, on a scale on one to ten – how scared were you that I was gonna die?”
“You were at least an eight.”
“You were a total eight.”
“An eight? Those Guardian things were an eight.”
“Are you kidding me?”
“Yeah, those were terrifying.”
“Then what’s a ten?”
“…Clowns over my death?”
“I, I hate clowns.”
“I hate clowns.”
“Oh my word. You thought I was dead.”
“No, you thought I was gone.”
“Yes, you did.”
“No, I had you all along.”
“I saw you shed tears. You shed a bunch of ‘em.”
“It was raining.”
“No it was not.”
“You were unconscious and it was raining.”
“It was totally sunny out and you were bawling.”
“It wasn’t sunny and you were unconscious.”
“Whatever, I kept your tears in a jar. I have proof.”
“…I’ll give you a five, how’s that?”
4. Grand Theft Auto IV
Grand Theft Auto has always had humour and absurdity in the dialogue. No one who’s played the games can say they’ve never enjoyed the radio stations or general satire on western culture.
Here’s a typically beautiful exchange between Niko and Roman:
“I don’t want to die, man! Not like this!”
“How would you like to die?”
“Having a threesome on my hundredth birthday? I don’t fucking know, you cold bastard!”
But Grand Theft Auto IV showed that the writers could handle more serious matters pretty well too. A lot of Niko quotes could apply here, but here’s two that sum that up without the need for 20 hours of context:
Ileyna: He did not used to be like this. When we were young, at home, he was beautiful. He was happy. He made me happy. But then something changed. Years ago. I never quite knew what it was. So many years I wondered what it was, or what was wrong with me that I did not see it in him, or I changed him.
Niko: Life is complicated. I…I never thought I’d live like this.
Niko: When the war came, I did bad things, but after the war I thought nothing of doing bad things. I killed people, smuggled people, sold people.
Ileyna: And you don’t worry about your soul?
Niko: After you walk into a village and you see fifty children, all sitting neatly in a row, against a church wall, each with their throats cut and their hands chopped off, you realize that the creature that could do this doesn’t have a soul.
Ileyna: God is very complicated. You mustn’t give up hope.
Niko: Well, I don’t know about that.
“War is where the young and stupid are tricked by the old and bitter into killing each other.”
The majority of the dialogue in any GTA is the protagonist dealing with assorted criminals in a Tarantino meets The Wire kind of way. It’s a unique and enjoyable touch that helped make Rockstar the kings of crime games.
It’s worth noting that the quality applies across the entire Grand Theft Auto IV trilogy, and that Red Dead Redemption matches up too.
3. Vagrant Story
A game famous for it’s articulate and quote-worthy writing. It isn’t too flowery and isn’t purple prose unlike the sudden faux-Shakespearean shift midway through Final Fantasy XII.
Every line says something about the story or the characters. From Ashley’s “I am the reinforcements” straight talk to Guildenstern’s eloquence, Rosencrantz’ riddles or Sydney’s omniscient words.
The opening quote (that is a fictional quote from the world of Ivalice) technically isn’t dialogue but it sets a tone and is frankly just mandatory if we’re talking Vagrant Story quotes:
“The body is but a vessel for the soul, a puppet which bends to the soul’s tyranny. And lo, the body is not eternal, for it must feed on the flesh of others, lest it return to the dust from whence it came. Therefore must the soul deceive, despise and murder men.”
Here’s an actual conversation, for good measure:
“Where did he go?”
“Through the wood, he says. You will follow him?”
“I must avenge the foul murder of my brother, Duane.”
“Of course you must. But be wary, your foe is strong.”
“God is stronger.”
Here’s a few unrelated examples of Sydney’s very quotable lines:
“Warping the minds of men and shepherding the masses has always been your church’s domain. You lure sheep with empty miracles and a dead god.”
“Yet mark your savior well, for he is one of the demons that you so fear.”
“In my dreams, I see an evil tyrant’s hands, which would choke the world. And he is the only one blind to his own folly.”
“A tyrant always dies alone, Guildenstern. Surrounded by silver-tongued leeches, he is utterly alone. He sows sorrow and reaps death.”
Finally, this is a personal favourite from when, to buy time for his partner’s escape, huge knight Tieger faces off against his now undead comrade in the collapsing Undercity:
“Now the slowest dance begins, partner! …’Tis a fine tomb we shall share!”